Who Owns the Title to 'Orthodox'?

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Orthodox views on the atonement Christy Thomas

I take issue with Christy Thomas' article on "Who Owns the Title to Orthodox?" The article assumes that evangelical, Catholic, classical, and Orthodox teachers differ so widely that we cannot all be right and we should admit we can be wrong, or at least greatly limited in our views. Thus, supposedly, one view is about as good as another.

I object. Classical Christians have a number of theories of the atonement. They are called "theories" because I don't know of any that claim that they alone are right and others are wrong. But all of the "orthodox" theories share this one conviction, that something happened at the cross that changed the relationship between God and humanity, thus making possible the New Covenant and a new way of relating to a loving God. In the words of the Articles of Religion, which both the Church of England and Wesley understood to be a statement of orthodox faith, "crucified, dead and buried to reconcile his Father to us."

Progressives have lots of trouble with all of the orthodox theories, mostly because they have no sure conviction of judgment and hell (eternal alienation) and tend not to make distinctions between the lost and the saved. In the Progressive view God could forgive, if that is important, with or without the cross. In the Moral Influence theory, while Jesus' death offers a splendid example of self-giving love, the nature of things would be the same even if it didn't take place.

The best place to study atonement theology is in the hymns of the church. All of the theories are touched on in these hymns (speaking of the whole corpus of hymnody). Evangelicals can sing them all, including the Moral Influence theory ("When I survey the wondrous cross").

Yes, there is a re-imagined church for which historic Christian doctrine is an embarrassment. The issue is not which is the correct theory (believers can affirm them all) but which theories must we discard because of our progressive beliefs. Can we sing the hymns and say the creeds with honesty or do we have to cross our fingers?

Riley Case more than 2 years ago

Who Owns the Title to "Orthodox"

Thank you, Riley, for a response to Christy Thomas' article. Your response is right on target. It seems to me that chair illustration used by the Orthodox is so over-simplified as to end up providing only a characiture of both the "protestant" view of atonement and the "orthodox" view of atonement. When describing the protestant view the priest places great emphasis on "God's inability to look upon sin," while mentioning little about the incarnational love of God. In the "orthodox" view he places great emphasis on God's seeking love, reaching out again and again in the incarnation. Yet, this illustration ignores the many other protestant theories of atonement and the emphasis on God's love that is characteristic of the theory of substitution. At the same time far from excluding the idea of judgment the priest seems to suggest that in the end those who ignore the seeking love of God face judgment. In reality, elements of both views presented in the video have been present in mainstream Christian orthodoxy found in Catholic, protestant and orthodox teaching over the generations. At the same time, as you rightly point out, some within the "progressive" movement of the church find any understanding of atonement unacceptable.

Greg Stover more than 2 years ago

Orthodoxy

Rev. Thomas misunderstands term Orthodoxy and Charles Wesley's great hymn, "And Can It Be" equally well. Neither the Orthodox churches or the Wesleys would support her, "It doesn't matter what you believe" theology.

Mike Childs more than 2 years ago

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